Who knew that some noises could eventually become as extinct as the passenger pigeon? Depending on your age, you or your kids or grandchildren may have only heard some of the following sounds in old movies … if at all.
1. Rotary Dial Telephone – The formerly familiar swoosh as the caller rotated the dial clockwise to the “finger stop” and then the click-click-click as the dial returned counter-clockwise to the start position is now a novelty application that you can install on your iPhones for nostalgic yucks. Adolescents waiting in line nearby will wonder what the heck that sound is, while we older fogies will know you’re poking fun at us and our ancient ways.
2. Manual Typewriter – Manual typewriters had an entirely subset of unique sounds that made them immediately identifiable … at one time. The keys clacked loudly as they struck the paper, the carriage lifted up with a distinct clunk when the shift key was employed, and then there was the ping of the bell warning you that you were nearing the end of the line. That meant you had to lift your left hand from the keyboard and swipe at the carriage return lever, which caused a sort of ziiiip noise as you pushed the carriage back to the starting position.
3. Coffee Percolator – If steampunk had an aural definition, it would be the blop-hisss of an old school coffee percolator
4. Flash Cube – The loud rapid-fire click-clack of an Instamatic camera equipped with a flash cube was a common background sound at any social gathering in the 1960s. It was a technological breakthrough at be able to snap off four – count ‘em, four! – photos in rapid succession without having to pause and install a new flash bulb after every shot. Even back then your crunchy granola types were concerned with the amount of waste used flash cubes created, so it became a common holiday craft project to re purpose the used cubes into trendy Christmas tree ornaments.
5. TV Channel Selector – When announcers of yesteryear used to admonish viewers, “Don’t touch that dial!” they were referring to the channel selector knobs found on TV sets. The standard TV dial went from 2 to 13 and you had to click on each number as you searched for the three channels that broadcast in your area. That mean a lot of clunk cliunk-ing interspersed with the static-y sound of “snow” on the blank stations. Listen to this old Muntz after it’s first switched on and you’ll hear another antique sound, the buzzzz of the picture tube warming up.
6. Record Changer – Record changers allowed you to stack a selection of 45s (seven-inch singles, not guns!) for your longer-term listening pleasure. Each record would make a soft slap sound as it dropped onto the turntable, a series of clicks followed as the remaining records adjusted into place and the tone arm swung over the lowered needle into the outer grooves of the record. You’d hear the slightest scratch noise as the stylus settled just so into the vinyl and then (finally!) the music would begin.
7. Gas Station Driveway Bell – Back in the days when all gas stations were full-service, the thin black pneumatic hose that snaked across the pavement was as familiar as the fuel pumps. When vehicles drove over the hose, a loud bell ding-dinged! inside the station alerting the attendant that he had another customer. You can hear one here and even order one for your driveway if you really dislike your neighbors.
8. TV Station Sign-Off – Before infomercials were invented, television stations actually went off the air for a few hours each night. Some of us TV-holics experienced physical withdrawal symptoms when we heard he announcer intone, “We now conclude our broadcast day …” around 2 am or so. The format varied little from station to station across the country; first a few technical details were announced (broadcast frequency, physical address of the station, etc.), then a reading of “High Flight” followed by the National Anthem, and then the steady beeeeeeeeeeeep tone of the test pattern.
9. Cash Register – Those chunka-chunka push buttons were clumsy, but (unlike the fellow in this video) veteran cashiers could check you out as fast with these old-style machines as their modern counterparts do with today’s scanners.
10. Film Projector – One of the jobs of the classroom AV squad team member was to run the film projector on movie days. The rapid tick-tick-tck of the sprockets really was that loud and usually accompanied by the shouts of “Turn it up!” and, of course, “Focus!”
11. Broken Record – Remember when you’d beg your mom over and over for something and she’d finally say, “You sound like a broken record!”? She wasn’t referring to the pops or hisses, but the repetitive effect that happened when the needle got stuck and played the same few notes over and over and over again … like at the 1:00 mark of this clip.
If you’re not afraid of revealing your true age, let us know how many of these you remember from your past!